Introducing karmeck360: A new voice in the Subdiversity universe

Subdiversity is joined by Morgan Karr and Lindsay Meck, collectively “karmeck360,” culture producers and curators.  Check out karmeck360’s bi-weekly riffs on music, media, and the live experience.

a preview of karmeck360 potential topics (in Tweets):

  • One 6th of globe knows @psy_oppa horsey dance.  What do viral videos say about us? #GangnamStyle  #MostWatched

#Fiscalcliff?  Boring.  Let’s debate #LesMis through memes.  #IDreamedAMeme @LesMiserables

  • Astronaut @Cmdr_Hadfield recorded a @SoundCloud track from space. Missing: percussion, gravity.  #spacejam  #DIYmusic

We are suckers for inspired covers.  “We are Young” performed by old computer parts.  Genius! #Fun

  • Putting your #art into the world can be terrifying.  We (and @ThisisSethsblog) are here to help.  #WeGotYou
35 Things You Will Never See Again In Your Life

karmeck360  from the mindPhones of Morgan Karr & Lindsay Meck 

New Year, New Voices, New Ideas

People often ask what it takes to be a working musician or artist in New York City.

No matter who you are, or how good you are at what you do, something very special about New York– or, I imagine, any other major arts hub– is that there is always, and will always be someone out there who is better than you. Some people find this intimidating, but for others it can be incredibly inspiring– there is always someone to learn from and an impetus to ceaselessly improve your craft.

But how can you as a musician or artist be heard above the static? How can you distinguish yourself so that you are the one that gets remembered, that gets the call for the next gig and the gig after that?

This year I’ll be exploring some of the skills and practices that I’ve observed in the best musicians, singers and artists in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville: those that I respect most– those that have managed over years to build a solid profession on being the best of the best. I’ll be interviewing some of them about their skills and sharing my own experiences and observations– and hopefully, you can share your comments as well.

For another spin on 2013, the Subdiversity blog will be joined by culture producers and curators karmeck360– (a.k.a. Morgan Karr and Lindsay Meck), contributing their own angle on the interaction between live and social media in the 21st century. More on that in days to come.


Justin Goldner is a bassist, guitarist, producer, songwriter, language junkie and lover of culture in all its manifestations. Follow him on Twitter @JusBass.

Holiday in Turkmenistan

This Thanksgiving, I took turkey to the extreme with a trip with the Clinton Curtis Band to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan to perform at the American Culture Days Festival organized by the U.S. Embassy. For those unfamiliar with the Central Asian steppes, Turkmenistan is a former Soviet state nestled between Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. It’s capital, Ashgabat, lies 10 miles from the border with Iran.

Clinton Curtis & Geoff Countryman visit music conservatory students in Mary, Turkmenistan

Things started getting exciting when we arrived at the gate in Istanbul for our midnight flight from to Ashgabat. We were greeted by a plethora of women in gorgeous Turkmen dress who employed some serious puppy dog eyes when asking me to carry aboard some of their (abundant) duty-free bags. We were careful to walk the thin line between offending anyone and inadvertently carrying contraband onto an international flight.

When we landed at 4am after about 24 hours of traveling, we were informed that Americans rarely fly in via Istanbul, because in the case of bad weather, the flight diverts to Tehran. My initial disappointment was supplanted by relief when we learned that Americans in Tehran without an official invitation are promptly jailed. Guess we dodged a Persian-rug-sized bullet.

Turkmen Ministry of Water building, shaped like a plunger

The city of Ashgabat is dotted with enormous, gleaming monuments, built since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and set against the backdrop of mountain ranges surrounding the flat desert city. The Ministry of Gas is designed to look like a giant Bic cigarette lighter, while the Ministry of Water is somewhat reminiscent of a plunger. The ornate “Palace of Happiness” is where newlywed couples go to register their marriages.

Portraits of their current president adorn the interior– and exterior– of most buildings and the national airline. Not only a dentist, he is an avid equestrian as well as a guitarist and accordion player. We were given complementary encyclopedic volumes that he wrote on “Medicinal Plants of Turkmenistan”.

Monument to former president Saparmurat Niyazov that previously rotated to perpetually face the sun

The trip was particularly special because we were able to experience a taste of Turkmen culture with companions, including the phenomenal bluegrass band Della Mae, the jazz virtuosi of Ari Roland Quartet, and New York breadmeister, founding owner of Sullivan St. Bakery and Co., Jim Lahey.

But the Turkmens’ response to us was also overwhelming. Volunteer students, seemingly from the upper echelons of civil society (many were ethnically Russian), flocked around us before, during, and after the concert. After gigs with Ryan Beatty and Ed Sheeran, I’m accustomed to how to act around starry-eyed teenagers (hey, I was accustomed to being one), but the distinctive element here was that we too were bubbling over to have been catapulted here halfway around the globe, meeting these people whose lives and experiences differ widely from our own but whose interests and aspirations are so familiar.

Clinton Curtis & Della Mae sport traditional Turkmen hats

Della Mae and Ari Roland’s group put on tightly calibrated, wonderful shows for a very receptive audience. We stepped on stage last, unsure of how an auditorium filled with dignitaries of conservative generations and students of arts institutes would respond to our overly cranked amplifiers and raucous posturing. Clinton is, of course, incapable of playing it safe. We opened with “Best You Can“, and tossed each other sidelong glances as he delivered ambiguous lyrics on Cat Stevens. As the set ground on, we repeatedly elicited unison clapping from the audience. It soon became clear that there were widely different factional responses, from hardened women in traditional dress with intractable scowls, to younger kids whose enthusiasm was contagious. Experienced in drawing some reaction, anything from a crowd, we quickly resolved to leave our everything on stage, do with it what they would. As we skanked through “Only Way Out”, Clinton left them with an impromptu screaming guitar solo worthy of Marty McFly. In that moment, I wondered how many Turkmen teens were developing plans of musical world domination like those that we in the band still nurture.

My own inclinations for the situation were perhaps a little bit safer, but once the gauntlet had been thrown down, I had to follow. “Riverside Hotel” tumbled into a drum and bass breakdown, but how do you communicate to an audience who may never have seen such explosive live drumming just what is happening on stage? I climbed onto the bass amplifier, unaware that it was perched precariously between two levels of the stage. 15 seconds of energetic wobbling could have ended in physical and diplomatic disaster, but somehow I managed to stick the landing right as Clinton and the band flung us into a double-time coda. Springsteen would have been proud. The Turkmen Minister of Culture was not as easily impressed, later requesting that I not repeat the stunt for our closing concert.

4 out of 5 of us discovered the hard way that many foreigners get sick the first time they visit central Asia and we spent several days bowing to the porcelain throne. In the midst of digestive troubles and band members dropping like flies, Clinton, saxophonist Geoff Countryman and drummer Drew McLean toured the city of Mary, once a major stop on the Silk Road, and put on a moving improvised performance there for local students and dignitaries. Fortunately, the rest of us were able to pull ourselves together for our final concert Sunday evening. After our performances, we were invited back on stage to join the native performers in a 15-minute disco clap fest. (By that point, half of the audience seemed to be on stage with us.)

We were also surprised to discover that the American Culture Days Festival was sponsored in part by Chevron, ExxonMobile and the Ashgabat-Alberquerque Sister Cities Foundation. According to Wikipedia,

Research conducted by the World Pensions Council (WPC) suggests that Turkmenistan’s political isolation ended remarkably in the years 2011-2012 as US, Chinese, Russian, Iranian and Turkish institutional investors courted Ashgabat, vying for a piece of the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas.[25]

On the way back, a few of us made a stop in Istanbul, which after a week of no sleep seemed rather like Valhalla. Istanbul is one of the most beautiful, enchanting, historically rich and cosmopolitan cities in the world– an onion layered with thousands of years of eastern and western culture.

Stepping into one of the scores of local music shops near the Galata Tower, constructed after the 1453 Ottoman capture of Constantinople, our noodling quickly sparked an impromptu jam session with passers-by. Not to be outdone, the store owner whipped out an Ottoman military double-reed called a “zurna”, which is easily the noisiest and least in-tune instrument you will ever hear. Gray Reinhard shredded on a bağlama sax, whilst Clinton Curtis and each I brought home a fretless “cümbüş” (pronounced joom-boosh), a hybrid instrument between a banjo and a rice cooker. You can expect the sweet smell of rice and some vaguely out-of-tune noodling at a Clinton Curtis show in the near future.

Here you can see even more photos from our trip – taken by Geoff Countryman and Clinton Curtis. Thanks to Clinton and Geoff for the generous use of their photos and videos in this post, and to the U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan as well as the Turkmen government for making such a unique trip possible.

Ryan Beatty hits the East Coast: MTV News and Fox DC Morning Show

Last week I got to join 17-year-old Ryan Beatty for a series of shows and promo appearances when he visited New York, including a gig at Webster Hall.

MTV News took the young heartthrob on a tour of the city, which we wrapped up with an acoustic performance in Central Park.

Get More:
Ryan Beatty, Music News

Later that week, we headed down to DC for a radio appearance and an interview/performance on FOX 5’s morning show. Coincidentally, 60’s psychedelic music legend Donovan, who had just been inducted into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame was performing there the same day.

At Webster Hall, we were joined by a stellar band including Adam Stoler, Julian Pollack and Ben Antelis, while Ryan was swamped with teenage fans who sang along to every word.

Curtis & Reinhard’s “No Nothing” featured on So You Think You Can Dance

I can’t even begin to express how proud I was to see Curtis & Reinhard‘s “No Nothing” tonight on So You Think You Can Dance, from our record Live At The Pigeon Club. It was stunning to see the tune choreographed and performed so well by Witney and Marko:

The heart-wrenching tune is without a doubt a favorite from the album and at our live shows. I distinctly remember hearing Blaire Reinhard‘s voice through the headphones as we recorded it, incredulous that I was hearing such a sound, that I was part of something so moving occurring at that very instant. It’s those kinds of moments that drew people like me to music in the first place and that keep me coming back, day after day.

Clinton, Gray and Blaire write about the unique collaborative process for this song here on the Curtis & Reinhard Blog, and you can download “No Nothing” directly from iTunes.

Congrats to Blaire, Gray and Clinton– I find it inspiring that such a moving, meaningful song can make it onto national television to find such a wide audience.

Live on “America’s Got Talent” with Bria Kelly and 7 in Unison

I had a blast last night getting to appear with two contestants on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”– 16-year-old Virginia native Bria Kelly, who performed Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder & Lead”, as well as California dance troupe 7 In Unison, who did a routine to the classic tune “Fever”. Also in tow were good friends and great musicians Dan Weiner (drums), Sierra Noble (fiddle), and Tim Kubart (guitar).

Anna Krantz “We Are Young” at Irving Plaza with Ed Sheeran

I’ve had some great gigs the last couple months with London-raised Anna Krantz. Twice we’ve gotten to share the stage with 21-year-old fellow Brit Ed Sheeran, who’s stunning one-mand-band live show is taking the under- (and over-) 18 demographic by storm.

Here’s a great video taken by a fan of Anna’s live cover Fun’s “We Are Young” at Irving Plaza last month:

Anna has a penchant for strikingly beautiful melodies and poignant, meaningful lyrics, which you can check out on her just released Foundation EP.

Abby Bernstein “Talk In Tongues” Album Available Now

Proud to have co-written and produced 6 tracks off Abby Bernstein’s brand new sophomore album, Talk In Tongues, out today on iTunes. Also pleased with the contributions of my frequent partners in crime Adam Stoler and Will Hensley, who co-wrote and produced the remaining tracks.

To top things off, Abby’s video for our tune “Mary’s Son” now has over 300,000 hits on YouTube!

You can check out the record on iTunes at this link:

Kudos to others who contributed: Chris Camilleri, Adam Christgau, Jordan Perlson, Mark Santangelo, Dana Leong, Michael Barimo and Adam Handwerger.

Abby Bernstein “Mary’s Son” Video, Huffington Post Interview

After a “pre-release” party this past week at NYC’s The Living Room, Abby Bernstein just released the video for her new single Mary’s Son from her upcoming record Talk In Tongues, which I co-wrote and produced.

Thanks to Jon Chattman of the Huffington Post who did this great interview with Abby and myself for his A-Sides series.

Grace McLean Debut EP “Make Me Breakfast” Released Today

Grace McLean & Them Apples’ very first record Make Me Breakfast is available now!

I’ve been working to produce this record with Grace for almost 2 years and the music’s come a long way. You can download it from the link above and hear what we’ve been cookin’ up. (Hint: it’s breakfast).

Catch us playing live tonight at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2 in New York @ 9pm!
Props and thank yous to everyone involved: (and here’s where I paste the credits):

Music & Lyrics by Grace McLean
Produced by Justin Goldner for Funky Butter Productions
Mixed by Chris Abell
Mastered by Larry Lachmann
Recorded at The Butter Lounge, additional recording by Anthony “Rocky” Gallo and Tom Gardiner at Virtue & Vice Studios, Chris Camilleri at Dubway Studios, Sam K. Shaw at The Buddy Project
Grace McLean – vocals, piano, ukulele (Cabbie Landlord), pump organ (Cabbie Landlord)
Liana Stampur, Kate Ferber – background vocals
Hiroyuki Matsuura – drums and percussion
Idrissa Kone – talking drum (Samuel)
Justin Goldner – bass, keyboards, guitars, drum programming, banjo