The true power of the Internet is information. Don't get me wrong; free music, photos of kitties, Ryan Gosling memes, and pornography are all wonderful, but it's information that's the real star even if we take it for granted. It's changed the way people do reports in school, made us think we're smarter than we really are, and rendered the Encyclopedia Britannica irrelevant.
Even with all that information available, it's easy to get in a Web routine rut. One day you're at your computer and you realize that you get all your CD reviews from Pitchfork, all your news from Rolling Stone, and all your local music news, show reviews and lists from Rocks Off. And there's nothing wrong with that; we're glad you're here.
But sometimes you need information that goes beyond the usual sites and house of mirrors that is Wikipedia. What do you do then?
Rocks Off can't give you the definitive list of every Web site you should have readily available, but we can make a few suggestions. Clear out some space in your bookmarks tab and check out a few of the sites we visit when we need more than a Google search.
There are plenty of great resources out there if you want to know about local shows; we give you Distant Early Warning each week and Space City Rock keeps a thorough list of everything that's been announced. Expand beyond Houston and other cities have their own local calendars (Showlist Austin comes to mind) and if you're really desperate Pollstar is still a thing that exists.
Festival Outlook, run by the people over at Consequence of Sound, separates itself from other concert-listing sites in a couple of important ways. First, it does exactly what it says: It gives you a look at upcoming festivals around the world. Have dates where you can take a vacation but don't know where to go? Scroll through the FO listings and see what fests are taking place when you're free; you're likely to find something either here or abroad.
The second thing that it does is that it consolidates all the information available about festivals and makes it a lot easier to read. You don't have to go over one of those posters where the names are huge at the top and get progressively smaller plus new band announcements are labeled as such for when you're only looking for lineup updates. They'll even post line up rumors for those fests who haven't made anything official yet.
As the price of concert tickets rises year after year, sometimes we find ourselves skipping out on shows we'd really like to see. While there are real life things to take in to consideration, such as work and family obligations, there are also reasons that come down to a matter of taste. Some shows may feature an act we like but don't love and the ticket buying decision may come down to what songs they're playing.
That's where Setlist.fm comes in. It's a wiki where users who go to concerts submit the set lists of the shows they've been to. Because the creation of the set lists are dependent on people actually going to the shows bigger artists are more apt to be represented but the site sees a fair amount of lists from smaller acts as well.
Beyond just set lists, the site also includes tour statistics so you can see what songs have been played the most and which albums the bulk of the songs are coming from. That type of data may not be much help for bands that play the exact show every night, but for bands that switch it up it'll give you a good idea of what to expect.
If you love listening to live music but don't want to get involved in file-sharing or tape-trading the Internet Archive Live Music Archive is a pretty remarkable project. Featuring thousands of shows from hundreds of trade-friendly artists, the LMA gives the listener the choice of downloading full concerts or listening to them in their browser. Some bands have a handful of shows and while others have hundreds.
The bands available via the site skew toward jam bands because most jam bands are OK with having their shows taped. That's not to say that other styles of music aren't represented; you'll find bootlegs from non-jam bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Death Cab For Cutie, and Maroon 5.
Even better, you're not just limited to mp3s when it comes to downloading; if you just need to have the recording in higher quality you'll find some shows available in .flac format.
2. Who Sampled
Be it the base of a hip-hop banger or a part of a dubstep freakout, samples play an important part in modern music. Today's artists can breathe new life into a song we already know or turn it into something we'd never dream of. Sometimes we want to know more about that process, whether it's finding out where a sample comes from or if a song has ever been sampled in the first place.
When it comes to finding out about samples, remixes, and covers there isn't a better resource out there than Who Sampled. More than just lists of text, the site provides links to listen to the sampled song in addition to time cues for where the sample appears or gives you the chance to compare the cover and original . Because of the way the site is set up you can approach a sample from either side; if you know that Lloyd's "I Want You" samples an '80s song but don't know which one you can look it up and see that it's built on Spandau Ballet's "True." If you want to know every song that's ever sampled "True" then search for that instead.
Either way, you'll learn something new and hear things for yourself without having to look up the tracks elsewhere.
1. Rap Genius
If you're not hip to the latest slang, rap can be very confusing. In a different context, words you've heard a hundred times over seem strange and foreign. Beyond that, some artists make reference to events or geographic locations lost on someone new to their work. You can try and use context clues but for some emcees that isn't enough.
Fortunately for those of us who didn't know from the start that "racks" was code for "money" and still puzzle over "I'm EZ tag like Peter Pan" some people do know what rappers are talking about, and Rap Genius gives them an outlet to explain things to the rest of us.
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Rap Genius allows users to break down songs line by line for maximum clarity. Those curious highlight the part of the song they want to know more about and a box pops up explaining the meaning. Its user base moves quick, getting most songs up on the site hours after they hit the internet. If you've ever heard a diss track but had no idea what some of the insults were about Rap Genius will get you up to speed quick.
It's also taught me to appreciate certain rappers more. It's easy to like someone on a surface level taking their songs literally, but once you start to see the double and triple meanings you start to see how talented some people really are.