The Lefsetz Letter: Twiddle


I'd never heard of them.

But the guy in Blue Sky said they were from Vermont and they were really good. I could tell by his enthusiasm he meant it. But he lived in Vermont, he was a ski instructor at Okemo. Was he trustworthy?

You know a band is good when you like their music without hearing it on record first.

And do records really matter anyway?

Our music scene has bifurcated, there are recordings and live and they're two separate worlds. Used to be you wanted to work at the record label, now you want to be a promoter or an agent, because live is everything. The labels are puffed up, saying they're responsible for the sound, but how to account for a band like Twiddle?


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.

Today Lorde dropped her new single. And believe me, it wasn't a bolt of inspiration, she wasn't lying in bed, hearing a sound and then running to her Pro Tools rig. No, there's a lot on the line, so you bring in the big cats, in this case Jack Antonoff, to build the track into a superstar production that we can all bop our heads to at the supermarket. Even though there's little humanity evidenced. At first listen I didn't quite get it, not until the end, the second time through I realized "Green Light" was gonna make it, but it could have been anybody, it didn't have to be Lorde, there's so much at stake, and what we end up with is…

Cotton candy.

Now the music scene used to be much smaller. You could comprehend it. You could know the hit parade and the deep tracks, have an opinion on everything. But today we're all foraging in the wilderness, hoping for a guide, hell, Don Strasburg iMessaged me a few hours back and asked me if I'd heard Hiss Golden Messenger, not only had I not heard them, I'd never HEARD OF THEM! But Don was looking for what's new and he pushed agent Adam Voith, who has amazing taste, and Adam came up with the band and Don listened and loved it and he told me about two tracks, "Biloxi" and "As The Crow Flies," and I pulled them up on Spotify and damned if they weren't good.

Not so good that they'd play on Top 40 radio.

Then again, "good" is not the accurate term. In this case, Hiss Golden Messenger is not obviously commercial, not by the standards shoved in our face, but like Twiddle they have a place in the firmament, they have fans, well, it's really one guy, but that's not important, the important point is these acts survive, because they're supported by their fans!

Now tonight's show was a soft ticket affair. And middle of the week shows don't do well, even when they're attached to Burton's U.S. Open of snowboarding, which made a bigger splash when it was back in Vermont, with the whole eastern seaboard within driving distance, and I wasn't expecting much but on the way back from dinner I heard that reggae beat interwoven with electronic elements and damned if I didn't get it.

I had to stop and listen.

On one hand it's the Phish configuration. Even down to the drummer on the side.

But the first time I saw Phish was back in 1992, and that's twenty five years ago. They keep making new people, and these people need new music.

So they're off on an aural journey, the bass bleating and the lead guitarist dancing atop the beat and I hear no obvious hooks and my jaded outlook doesn't get it and then…

I find myself bopping to the beat. Not quite noodling like at a Dead show, but the music got inside me and hooked me and made me feel good.

Used to be you went to the show to unite with the songs on the radio, on the turntable, the tracks you knew by heart. But now, many people go to the show for the feeling, the environment, in a digital world it's great to interact with humanity, the music is the special sauce.

And I'm bringing the band up on my phone and I learn that they just announced their own festival, in Burlington, they're gonna do four sets. And yes, Phish did this first, but the point is Twiddle has fans, they're being supported. They're MUSICIANS!

Remember when musicians ruled the world as opposed to pop stars? People who practiced and could play? And believe me, this guitarist could play, he was tapping, everybody pays fealty to Eddie Van Halen.

And there are no hard drives and the keyboard player is tickling the ivories and I'm starting to feel warm all over, that this scene survives.

And it does. Twiddle are part of the firmament on JamBase. And they have a live recording from Peter Shapiro's Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, and I know that many readers are wincing right now, not believing I'm out of the loop, but we're all out of the loop on some things, it's the modern condition!

Then again, people aren't so rigid in their listening. They'll listen to Lorde and Twiddle. Katy Perry and Led Zeppelin. They're consumers at the smorgasbord of music. Which sometimes cross-pollinates itself, hell, they rap in country music now.

And every band wants more. More audience, more fame, more money, more impact. But it's a long hard road. So you've got to enjoy the journey. The traveling, the playing, the meeting of people, the getting high.

It's a lifestyle.

And the audience is in on it. Which is why they go to the shows. Because they want to experience the feeling that only music can deliver.

And my research tells me Twiddle fails on wax, it's got no obvious hits.

But they do have one track with two million streams on Spotify.


But that's not the point.

It's an organic thing. An evolving thing. Different every night.

Kinda like life