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THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Jack’s Mannequin At The Troubadour

I was so much older than the rest of the crowd that it was like I didn't even exist. Andrew McMahon's parents were in the audience, he pointed them out deep into the show. I was stunned to see they were contemporaries. And there was this old man walking around who might have been his grandpa, but other than them I was DECADES older than everybody in the audience. No one wanted to talk to me, no one gave me a second look, I was completely invisible.

This was not the hipsters. They might read PerezHilton, but they're
not featured on the site, there's no scribbling on their photos.
Today's kids have got their pulse on everything, the breadth of their knowledge far exceeds that of their parents. But what they dedicate their time to truly moves them, or they move on.

Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.

Hit songs are for a laugh, or a bump on the dance floor. The antics of the drama queens and the has-beens are just that. Train-wrecks to be observed and then discarded. The mainstream media is ramping up the publicity, imploring this generation to pay attention, to stay focused. And when these young people don't, they're accused of having a short attention span. But they just have incredible crap detectors, they don't want to spend time with anything but what truly affects them, that penetrates them.

I didn't see a plethora of tattoos, no teeter-totter high heels.
Sure, a few guys had emo-haircuts, but on stage only the bass player had his hair cut in a bizarre way. The rest of the band was positively normal. The drummer had a Don Henley afro. The guitarist looked like he was pulled from math class. And Andrew McMahon looked like he'd told his art or theatre teacher he had a conflicting appointment, and had gotten out on a pass.

This whole generation has been ignored by the media. Purveying its dieted-down stars and lame shoot-em-up/explosion movies. But the electronics manufacturers have tapped right in. Everybody had a cell phone. I saw people tapping away on their Sidekicks. And others holding up their mobiles transporting the music from this sold-out show to their buddies, to their answering machines. I even saw someone recording the show on a hand-held device. And everybody up front had a digital camera. When the oldsters are trying to keep their public at bay, refusing to be photographed from the wrong angle, recorded if not in full voice, Jack's Mannequin waved the audience in. Andrew wanted everybody to come on down, for the ritual. Of singing along at the top of your lungs to your favorite songs. Of being transported from this world with too many bills and little future to one where the flame burns brightly.

The girl behind me had a complexion not built for HDTV. But as she
sang along with every word what struck me most was her halitosis.
She'd probably never had a date. But tonight, her life was better than a night out at a movie with someone who would instantly forget her. Jack's Mannequin cared about her.

Sure, there was an obese girl behind me, but there were plenty of fresh-scrubbed kids who were far from losers. And although there might have been a few more girls than boys, males were out in full force, they were the most vociferous singers in my neighborhood.

They didn't track me down to go to this show. I wanted to go, I needed to go. It's so rare you hear new music that you like, that you
want to hear again. It's not often you want to play the whole album.
But that's how I felt about Jack Mannequin's "Everything In Transit".

The lawyer told me Andrew had gotten leukemia. That he'd been in Something Corporate. But I could detect the enthusiasm, the belief in this attorney's missive to me. He wanted to give this music a good shot. And I'm glad he did. Because I love "Into The Airwaves".

"From an empty room on the first floor
As the cars pass by the liquor store
I deconstruct my thoughts at this piano"

That's what Andrew did. He sat at the lip of the Troubadour's tiny stage and banged the keys like he truly meant it. He even stood atop the piano, not in a screw you Billy Joel way, but in an expression of sheer exuberance. He'd written songs in his basement at sixteen, he was now thankful to be able to play rock music for a living. HE SAID SO!

"From the corner by the studio
The gold-soaked afternoon comes slow
I deconstruct my thoughts and I am walking by On Third Street, the freak show thrives Santa
Monica's alive, but Something's not so right inside Living with the news"

These are not lyrics written by committee. So bland they can work in countries where English is not just the second language, but oftentimes the third or fourth, or completely unknown. This is directly from Andrew's heart to you, you feel like he's speaking to you. Yes, he's cut all his records in that studio in Santa Monica, by the Third Street Promenade. It's where he goes to be inspired, it's where he concocts these numbers that mean so much to you.

The other classic track from "Everything In Transit" is "The Mixed Tape".

"Where are you now?
As I'm swimming through the stereo
I'm writing you a symphony of sound
Where are you now?
As I rearrange the songs again
This mix could burn a hole in anyone
But it was you I was thinking of
It was you I was thinking of
It was you I was thinking of"

Heartbreak isn't about buying a new pair of shoes and sleeping with someone else. It's about waking up with them still on your mind, just like when you went to bed. It's wanting to close the curtain, shutting out the light.

This was the highlight of the evening, the song that put the crowd into a frenzy.

I don't know what Andrew McMahon's dream is. Whether he's into the same world domination as the hard rock bands. If so, I'd hate to tell him such a concept is history. That it's most important to garner an audience, by being honest, by respecting your fans, treating them right, making your music solely for them. If this is Andrew's goal, he's achieved it. His fans don't need him in the newspaper, don't need him on the cover of "Rolling Stone", they just need his music on their iPods, so they can dial it up when they feel alone and need company, when they have a personal victory and want to share it with someone, when they want to believe their life will work out.

"The Mixed Tape" starts with a soft guitar riff and then Andrew McMahon starts singing quietly. But then the track EXPLODES! And it runs at a about a hundred miles an hour almost throughout, as if Andrew is trying to squeeze all the bad feelings, all the anger out of his brain through the playing. But at the end of the song, all the other instruments fall out, it's just Andrew playing the piano riff, again and again, and then he slows the number down and sings:

"Where are you now?
Where are you now?"

Where do they go after you've broken up? They should be dead, they can't be continuing their lives. They can't be talking to anybody else, they can't be laughing, they can't be going forward. Because you're stuck. And the only thing that says exactly how you feel is music. The lyrics jump out of the stereo, from your earbuds, the singer knows you, exactly how you feel. If only you could send her this song, maybe she'd understand, maybe she'd come back, maybe everything would be all right.

"And this is my mixed tape for her
It's like I wrote every note
With my own fingers"

That's the power of music. And last night at the Troubadour the music was quite powerful, enough to sustain a life, keep a person going. It wasn't for you, but for those in attendance, it was…everything.