Saturday, January 7, 2017

Roger McNamee Free Super Bowl Tailgate Party Show At Sweetwater Music Hall 5 Feb. 2017

Roger McNamee, founder of San Francisco jam band Moonalice and acoustic duo and band Doobie Decibel System, will be performing at Sweetwater Music Hall on 5 February in a "Super Bowl Tailgate Party." 

Roger, who spent the majority of his career in the emerging tech industry and is a regular contributor to broadcasts like CNBC’s Squawk Alley, has returned to his roots as a musician. He described his inverted path to the stage in a recent interview, “Here’s how it worked. When I was in college, I was in a really awesome band called Guff.  I think we really had a real shot.  It was 1980 and we were playing really at the intersection of the Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa and punk, and it was a good time to be playing that kind of music.  We were a quartet and the guy who wrote the songs fell in love and ran away.  I had been supporting myself through all of this and I had all these student loans and then, suddenly, the notion of going off and trying the band thing without our core songwriter just seemed really risky.  So I went off and got a day job.  By a series of total miracles…it worked out really, really well!”

He elaborated, “What was weird is the fact that I was a musician turned out to be the key to it.  I got involved in the personal computer industry when it was just starting out, and the thing that was so funny was that everyone that was in that business was my age.  We all listened to the same music, we all liked the same drugs, and at the trade shows and conferences people would bring instruments and we would have jam sessions…and I knew more songs than everybody else.”

Chuckling, he continued, “So I was sitting there paying with Paul Allen from Microsoft and the head of R & D from Apple, and I got to know all these people as musicians, and if you know somebody from playing music you know them a lot deeper than from just a conversation.  I just…I was just really lucky.  I showed up in the right place at the right time.  The only place a hippie could be successful in business was the tech world.  Steve Jobs, bless his heart…famously said “Never trust someone who hasn’t taken acid.”  And that WAS the personal computer industry.  And that felt pretty normal to me, weirdly enough right? I’m not really a business person, but I did have a really lucky run in the tech world and that allowed me to get back to playing on my own, being able to play in bands. I’m blessed.”

Roger is the lead vocalist and plays bass and guitar with Moonalice, playing 90-100 shows a year since 2007. Moonalice has been a pioneer in leveraging technology to build a national audience and has one of the most engaged fan bases on social media with more than a half a million fans. The Moonalice Couch Tour™ on enables fans to watch any show on a smartphone or PC without an app. Moonalice works with a group of more than 24 poster artists to produce a unique poster for every concert. In 2014, Roger and Jason Crosby (Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Susan Tedeschi Band) formed a duo, Doobie Decibel System that has since expanded to a band including Dan Lebowitz, Pete Sears and Jay Lane. A special version on the band will be performing at this year’s BottleRock Napa Festival.

Attendees at the Sweetwater Tailgate Super Bowl Tailgate Party can expect an acoustic show with a of a range of original ballads as well as covers, like this rendition of The Beatles’ “Here There And Everywhere” that he recently shared via a live Facebook broadcast – and to take home memories of a jolly good time out as well as a commemorative poster!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Doobie Decibel System Over The Moon To Be Performing At BottleRock Napa

“I’m blown away. Everything about BottleRock is just amazing,” said Roger McNamee of Doobie Decibel System, whose other band Moonalice has been repeat act since the very first BottleRock. “These guys have something unique,” added McNamee of the event promoters, Latitude 38. “It’s something that fits the Napa community. The food is amazing and I’m not a wine drinker, but if I were, I think this is probably as close to heaven as you can think.” 

A special Doobie Decibel System Band will be joining a BottleRockNapa Valley 2017 lineup presented by JaM Cellars that includes Foo Fighters, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Maroon 5 as headliners.

The event will run in Napa Valley from May 26 to 28 and will include over 80 musical act​s, including Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Modest Mouse, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, The Roots, Silversun Pickups, and dozens more will perform at the 3-Day music, wine, food, and craft brew festival. Passes go on sale on Wednesday, January 4, 2017, 10AM PST

One of the most innovative and enjoyable festivals in the U.S., BottleRock Napa Valley features an unparalleled combination of the world’s biggest bands and artists alongside the hottest up-and-coming music acts. In addition to the three renowned headliners, the 2017 festival will showcase Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Modest Mouse, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, The Roots, Silversun Pickups, Band of Horses, Fitz & The Tantrums, Dirty Heads, Live, The Naked and Famous, The Devil Makes Three, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Gavin DeGraw, St. Lucia, House of Pain, Bob Moses, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Saint Motel, The Strumbellas, AlunaGeorge, Frightened Rabbit, Andra Day,Galactic, Charles Bradley&His Extraordinaires, Mavis Staples, Ani DiFranco, Bishop Briggs, Lewis Del Mar, Highly Suspect, Judah & the Lion, Elephant Revival, WarrenG, Bad Suns,Giraffage, gnash, The Staves, The Barr Brothers, Pell, Hippo Campus,Jessica Hernandez&The Deltas, Barns Courtney, HissGolden Messenger, The California Honeydrops, The Hunna, 888, Prinze George, Con Brio, La Santa Cecilia, The Shelters, SWMRS, Run River North, James Hersey, Day Wave, DREAMERS, HIRIE, Baskery, City of the Sun, Cobi, PARTYBABY, A R I Z O N A, The Heydaze, Parade of Lights, little hurricane, Marty O'Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra, Josh Kelley, Jessica Childress, Corey Harper, WILD, Saint Mesa, Hibbity Dibbity, The Helmets, Pacific Radio, The Redwoods Revue, Doobie Decibel System, Troubadour 77, Silverado Pickups, Tracksuit Wedding, Secure the Sun, Serf and James, Kadin Yeahmon, Alec Lee, and the Napa Youth Symphony.

Doobie Decibel System at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2016
“We are very proud of this lineup. In addition to our amazing headliners, the lineup has something for everyone,” said Dave Graham, CEO of BottleRockNapa Valley and Latitude 38 Entertainment. “It's exciting to see BottleRock develop, from the performers, to our wine and culinary programming, our layout…we make great strides each year to elevate the overall event. BottleRockers expect an amazing experience and we believe they will be very happy with all the upgrades we are planning for this year’s festival.”

In 2016, BottleRockNapa Valley welcomed more than 120,000music, food and wine fans during its fourth annual installment in historic downtown Napa. The sold-out 2016 festival featured more than 90 performers on five stages including Stevie Wonder, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Florence + The Machine, and more. BottleRock Napa Valley also features its legendary Williams-Sonoma Culinary Stage, showcasing a unique mashup of cooking demonstrations with renowned chefs, celebrities, performers, and rock stars. Details on the 2017 culinary stage will be announced at a later date.

Get ready to get your BottleRock on and enjoy this taste of Doobie Decibel System treats to come from a show at San Francisco's Union Square in 2016, A special version of the Doobie Decibel System Band will be performing at BottleRock 2017!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Carolyn Ferris and Wes Wilson Collaborate To Create Psychedelic Rock Poster Art

The queen of the surreal and the father of the rock '60s concert poster had worked together before, but in July this year Carolyn Ferris and Wes Wilson officially teamed up to design a sublimely surreal poster for the Doobie Decibel System show at The Westcott Theater in Syracuse, NY. As Carolyn described it, “This is Wes Wilson’s and my first copyrighted image together in true collaborative/team effort. We had great fun designing it and bringing it into its vividly full and magical life.” The DDS collaboration was followed shortly after by another poster, this time for Roger McNamee’s other band, Moonalice

Carolyn who used to live in Fairfax, California, recently moved to Missouri near to where Wes is based.  Describing her career in art Carolyn said, “I worked with Timothy Leary over a span of about six years, and have created work for Santana, The Fillmore, and The Warfield. I joined the incredible Moonalice poster artist pool in 2009; within it, I find sanctuary with great music and adventure. In the years I’ve been with Moonalice, my style to date has now changed three times!  I started making posters with computer art using photoshop. In 2013, I used acrylic on canvas to create posters.  By 2015, I put away those acrylics and I’m now creating posters using ink on paper. I totally enjoy using ink, and now I even hand draw the lettering!” 

Wes Wilson, who is generally acknowledged as the father of the '60s rock concert poster, was born Robert Wesley Wilson on July 15, 1937 in Sacramento, California. He helped pioneer what is now known as the psychedelic poster. His style of filling all available space with lettering, of creating fluid forms made from letters, and using flowing letters to create shapes became the standard that most psychedelic artists followed. It helped put the “psychedelic” in the art. Today, Wes Wilson creates paintings, but still occasionally does new posters or new art of interest. 

Recent collaboration between Carolyn and Wes includes the amazing poster art below for Doobie Decibel System, Moonalice and for #yeson64.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Moonalice's New CD - HIGH 5 - Will Help You Live A Little

As Moonalice fans who call themselves "The Tribe" will affirm, Moonalice is more than a band - it's lifestyle lived in tie-dye technicolor as glorious as the video wall which makes its appearance at many Moonalice shows. Fans check the sepia of everyday life at the door of Moonalice concerts, and enter an emotional oasis where for a few hours the world seems like a kinder, happier place - an oasis that they can then access and relive at will on the band's social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram - or on the band's own radio station, Moonalice Radio

Moonalice is Roger McNamee, Pete Sears, Barry Sless and John Molo -  a seasoned ensemble of talented jam and rock scene musicians blending evocative lyrical prowess with blistering instrumental mastery. Everyone, both the band and audience are part of the experience - feeding off each others' energy while the music inspires dancing and other acts of self expression.

Roger McNamee recently talked to Digital Journal about the band's new CD called "HIGH 5" which was officially released with a concert at the Terrapin Crossroads' Grate Room on October 6th. He said, "Even though we have released CD's before, this is where we went back to the full-album LP style. In our previous CD's we didn't have much rhyme or reason, thought or input. It was just getting songs out there."

He added, "With 'HIGH 5' it is much more. In this CD we have something deeper. In my mind, 'HIGH 5' is a notion of breaking out of the usual routine in the hopes of making things better. The songs on this CD could have been written when we were young," noting that, "In youth the goals are more about simple things. But in maturity life has more complexity. This new CD forms the core of our repertoire, in that we want to help make a positive impact." 

Moonalice is about having fun and sharing music but as Roger pointed out, "The songs on this CD are reflective of a full lifetime; a life that has matured and come to an understanding of things." 

He mentioned that in society right now, there is "lack of trust, people are really struggling just to survive (financially and for some emotionally). There is an uncertainty about the future. These are things that are effecting everyone." 

As a musician, he said, "It is not everyday where we can write songs like this. And, as I see it, it is our opportunity to share these songs, their meaning and to see how our audience/fans receive them."

A GratefulWeb review of HIGH 5 describes CD highlights: "McNamee’s vocals on the opening track “Live A Little” are reminiscent of the finest classic Eagles and Byrds singles. The next track “Summer Rain’ yearns for those beautiful memories past, evoking and provoking imagery in the vein of Bruce Cockburn’s early material. The Pete Sears led tracks “Unsung Heroes” and “Lady of the Highlands” show off the modestly understated vocal range of the multi-instrumentalist. The album’s title track is a remarkable Barry Sless composition, inspired by Joe Morello/Dave Brubeck’s canonical original “Take 5.” Always consistent as the rhythmic heartbeat of Moonalice is John Molo who takes each unalike track with such precision that no other percussionist could realize."

"Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" is a personal favorite. One of the best-known American songs of the Great Depression, it is a bittersweet reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

The HIGH 5 CD is available for $10 in the Moonalice Store.

Track Listing:

Live A Little (That's Right)
Summer Rain
Unsung Heroes
Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
Lady Of The Highlands
High Five
I Can't Help But Wonder (Where I'm Bound)

A live performance of "HIGH 5" by Moonalice at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco, 2014.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Amazon Go - Experimenting Really Does Matter Says Investor Roger McNamee on CNBC

Image: Amazon Go
With the announcement of Amazon Go, the company is taking e-commerce to a whole new level. "Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning," the company explained in a press release today. "Our Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you're done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt.”

Stores will comprise of a compact 1,800 square feet of retail space so that busy customers can get in and out fast. All consumers need to shop is an Amazon account, a supported smartphone, and the free Amazon Go app. The first store is located at 2131 7th Ave, Seattle, WA, on the corner of 7th Avenue and Blanchard Street and is currently open to Amazon employees in a Beta program. It will open to the public in early 2017. To be notified of when the store opens, click here.

Speaking on CNBC’s Squawk Alley, Roger McNamee, co-founder of technology investment firm Elevation Partners, said, “I think this is part of a continuum that began a number of years ago when folks like Home Depot and then CVS and Albertson's and others like Walmart have experimented with self-checkout. That has been a mixed experience. I think the most compelling consumer experience was the one at Home Depot. Unfortunately, the technology they used to do it was then exploited by hackers to basically get access to all their corporate accounts. That didn't work out so well.”

Image: CNBC Squawk Alley
He continued, “These things have all had rough moments. The consumer experience has been everywhere from fantastic for the person who otherwise would've been in line for a long time, to just dreadful. I don't think that it's been as good for the company as they'd like to think. Amazon's model, which appears to be kind of a closed system, the whole thing is controlled by them, is way more consumer friendly. I really do hope it works. I'm not going to sit there and assume it's going to move the needle much for Amazon because Amazon's really big and really successful. I think moving the needle for them is hard. I think this is another example of Amazon really pushing the envelope in really interesting ways. I like this better than Dot and some of the other things they're doing.”

Human beings are really a positive part of retail

Answering a question about the comparison of Amazon Go with self-checkout at Apple stores, Roger said, “The early results from self-checkouts suggests that, in fact, self-checkout works in a relatively narrow set of circumstances with today's technology. Amazon's moving the technology forward. In principle it should enlarge the number of cases where it works. The reality is, having human beings in the retail experience is actually one of the more positive things for many retailers. Imagine Tiffany, there's a place where the sales person is really important. At Apple the human beings are really a positive part of the experience. I think there are other circumstances and grocery stores might be an example, where it's a mixed blessing. I don't expect this to take over the world. It just doesn't seem like an earth-shattering thing.”

Really hope Amazon Go works

Experimenting really does matter

In conclusion Roger said, “I'm just glad they're doing it. I think variety's a cool thing. I think experimenting really does matter. I do think that the employment impact is going to be something. Hopefully not terribly huge. I think what it will show, as the CVS thing has shown is that humans are actually a really positive part of retail.”

According to CNBC sixty-five percent of U.S. consumers who have never purchased groceries online said they simply preferred shopping in a store, based on a survey of 2,500 U.S. consumers taken by Cowen analysts.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Roger McNamee - Spectacles Are A Genius Marketing Gimmick

Image: Snap Inc.
New York is the newest location for one of Snap Inc.'s vending machines. Located inside a pop-up shop at 5 East 59th Street, near Central Park in Manhattan, and right across from the Apple Store.

Vending machines are the only way you can officially buy the sunglass-mounted cameras. The location is scheduled to remain open until New Year's Eve but will be closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.

Spectacles are sunglasses with an integrated video camera that captures 10-second scenes, said to be capable of recording a day’s worth of “Memories" in a circular video format and on a single charge. Spectacles connect directly to Snapchat via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

With its trio of three bold, bright colors (teal, orange, or black) and blinking lights to indicate recording, the edgy device looks more fashion toy than tech, which is said to only add to the appeal for its user base. According to Mashable the Snapchat app reaches 41 percent of all 18- to 34-year-olds in the United States and is reported to be growing daily active users at 50% annually (based on leaked numbers), and to have had 150M daily active users in June 2016. Now those users can pop on a pair of Spectacles and capture everything that they can see. Since the glasses capture circular videos, they are a de facto GoPro for the face.

Image: CNBC Squawk Alley
Speaking on CNBC’s Squawk Alley, Roger McNamee of Elevation Partners weighed in on Snap's Spectacles vending machine arriving in NYC, describing it as a “Genius marketing gimmick," also saying, "No matter what else it is, it is an extraordinary marketing gimmick. I look at Snap and I have nothing but admiration for them."

Roger continued, "When they turned down the offer from Facebook a number of years ago, like many people, I thought that that was ill-advised and was going to result in a lot of tears. It turns out not only did they have the last laugh, but at the moment they really, they have captured something in the zeitgeist out there that is different from other technology companies. I don't know where it's going to lead, but I will say that they have the magic right now."

Commenting on Snap being Los Angeles as opposed to Silicon Valley based, Roger said, " If we think about Amazon and Amazon Web Services located in Seattle, there was a long period of time when Silicon Valley was wildly better as a producer of great tech companies than the rest of the country, maybe two standard deviations better in terms of the percentage of successful tech startups coming out of the valley. The reality is, the rest of the country now can do it. Silicon Valley, there's still way more money there, still way more people, a lot of energy here. But the hit rate has come down so much that it no longer stands out as the place you have to be if you want to create a technology company. That if you work hard enough and you have a great idea, you can do it pretty much anywhere now. Snapchat, I think, really does confirm, yet again, that observation."

Reflecting on a possible IPO, Roger said, "What the stock is worth is anybody's guess. But it is really clear to me that they're going to get everybody's attention. When they do the IPO, I suspect it will be well subscribed."

A recent article on Recode has described the rollout of Spectacles as a "spectacle," commenting, "Everywhere Snap drops a Snapbot, the big yellow vending machines that serve as temporary storefronts for the glasses, crowds line up, dozens of people deep, and spend their hours waiting in line posting and tweeting about how excited they are to get their hands on some Spectacles." 

The author concurs with the assessment of "genius" when it comes to marketing, adding, "Snap isn’t going to make much money selling smart glasses one vending machine-full at a time. But that’s not the point. Instead, what the company has done is create the kind of buzz and excitement around a product - and thus the Snap brand, which is prepping for an IPO - that we haven’t seen in a long, long time."

The momentum before the IPO?

Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, describes itself as a camera company, saying, “We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate. Our products empower people to express themselves, live in the moment, learn about the world, and have fun together.” 

Image: CNBC Squawk Alley
The company is using the "bot" vending machines to sell Spectacles - keeping them exclusive and generating hype - and most importantly, generating perceived demand. Spectacles are a pricey $130 a pop and you can only buy a maximum of two pairs at a time - but people are reported to be reselling them online for far more - up to $2,500!

Snap Inc. is reported to have filed confidentially for an IPO that could value the company north of $22B. For context, the company was last valued at $18B in the private markets, which put it just behind three other US-based unicorns: Uber ($68B), Airbnb ($29B), and Palantir Technologies ($20B), and just ahead of WeWork ($16.9B). Snap’s public debut would be the first unicorn IPO since the September 2016 IPO of Nutanix, which went public at a valuation of $2.2B.

Snap’s move into wearables could be a signal of possible future growth in new areas. Its initial Spectacles product sold out quickly, and Snap has itself acquired three companies this year alone, including a company specializing in 3D imaging (Seene). Snap also bought Looksery, a facial recognition company in 2015. In January 2015 it acquired Epiphany Eyewear. Patent data also reveals it has filed over 30 patents, with more recent patents related to object recognition and image augmentation.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

PokéNatomy Re-Imagines Pokémon Through The Lens Of Modern Biology

In the four months since its launch Pokémon GO has extended itself into more than just gaming - into the course curricula of at least two Poké-Pioneering universities, and as a transformative educational art project. Entitled "PokéNatomy - An Unofficial Guide to the Science of Pokémon," the book dissects, expands, and explores the original 150 Pokémon in breathtakingly beautiful and detailed illustrations. 

PokéNatomy re-imagines Pokémon through the lens of modern biology. According to the project's Kickstarter page,"Now, for the first time ever, you can get the incredible scientific world of Pokémon in print in a high-quality, fully illustrated, unofficial guidebook, designed to help people of all ages understand the power that's inside!" With one week of the Kickstarter campaign to go, 376 backers have so far pledged $20,117 of the $20,000 goal.

In the exclusive interview below, Christopher (Chris) Stoll, the creator and illustrator of PokéNatomy, talks about about Pokémon GO beyond gaming, and PokéNatomy as a bridge he between pop culture and the life sciences.

Pokémon GO is worth studying

"I believe sincerely that Pokémon GO is worth studying, the free to play augmented-reality game has been downloaded almost half a billion times and become an incredible success for its small studio, Niantic. The game can serve as an example for aspiring game developers, and it certainly made enough money to capture the attention of entrepreneurs," said Chris.

He continued, "It is easy to scoff disdainfully at gaming trends, but I believe we must not avert our eyes from properties that capture the popular imagination, no matter how crude or simplistic they may appear. There is real merit in studying the success of Pokémon GO and aspiring to understand how the application gamifies physical activity, using reward systems to encourage exploration. Pokémon GO may well be the first step into a world where powerful game-like incentive systems integrate into every aspect of our daily lives, encouraging good nutrition, exercise, and intellectual exploration. I believe the game should be studied in academic settings, and its merits, risks, and limitations understood by a new generation of designers and inventors."

Chris concluded with a warning, "I don’t, however, believe that studying the game exclusively involves playing it. I hope that these courses involve serious discussion of the game’s technology, cultural significance, and incentive systems. If the game is merely being participated in, rather than being examined and discussed, I’d consider these courses terrific wastes of fertile young minds, money, and time."

Bridge between pop culture and life sciences

"I believe we are at a point in time where the public wants science to be a part of the entertainment landscape," Chris said, continuing, "More and more, scientists who tackle difficult and unintuitive subjects can use pop culture to communicate with the public, and especially with young people. However, there is a danger here. In a world where astrophysicists are regular consultants on science-fiction movie sets, and anatomical diagrams of Pokémon can amass tens of millions of views online, the boundary between real science and popular entertainment is thinner than ever."

He elaborated, "In the push/pull of science and entertainment it should be science that influences popular culture, and not the other way around. There are already perverse incentives in place for aspiring researchers to capture the public’s attentions and imaginations, and earn funding through popularity. If we are not careful pop culture could come to dominate scientific discussions and direct the attentions of the public towards entertaining, but ultimately unscientific, endeavors."

Basic understanding of Biology required

On the topic of some scientific knowledge required, Chris said, "To me, popular culture needs to be supplementary to a foundation of scientific understanding. My Pokénatomy pieces require a basic understanding of biology to be enjoyed. Each Pokémon is based upon real-world organisms, and only once I have a grasp of each organism’s basic scientific principles do I begin to tease out the more fantastical elements. These illustrations are intended to reward and engage with viewers who have an understanding of basic Biology, and are rooted in real scientific principles." 

Chris continued, "This is not always easy, as some Pokémon possess bodies and abilities that totally defy the laws of physics as we understand them. There’s always a temptation to just invent an organ and label it the “fire sack” or “psychic gland” and leave it at that. I try to resist that unscientific urge wherever possible, and in those cases where hard-science is unavailable I try to present interesting and alternative perspectives on these characters based on the theoretical rather than the outright fantastic."

 Untapped public desire

"I don’t believe that my work strikes the perfect balance between science and popular entertainment, but it seems to me that there is an untapped public desire to see these elements mixed. I hope that in some small way, my Pokémon illustrations contribute positively to this trend," he concluded.