Low-down digital, broken-down Owls

Low Flying Owls

Low Flying Owls

The panel itself was impressive: David Sutphen, vice president of government relations for the Recording Industry Association of America; Gwen Hinze, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Jonathan Poneman, the founder of Sub Pop Records; Alan Sparhawk, singer, songwriter and guitarist for the slow-core rock band Low; Brian Zisk, founder and technologies director of the Future of Music Coalition; and Grace Bergen, former general counsel (before the sweeping layoffs) of Tower Records.

Held at the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law on November 12 and organized by California Lawyers for the Arts, the event was billed as “Digital Music 1.0: A Panel on the Ethics of Digital Music Downloading.” Panelists were given 15 to 20 minutes of mic time and proceeded to lay out a complex web of legal ramifications, artists’ concerns, ethics-related contemplations and, at times, vitriolic condemnations.

Greg Geist, a student at McGeorge, organized the event because, as he put it, “the industry has generally been slow to move on the huge public demand for online music distribution. I think the industry will move closer to a solution if you get the different interest groups in the same room as the general public.”

Hinze provided a point of resonance that ran throughout the proceedings. “The genie is out of the bottle,” she commented. “We can’t go backward and pretend we don’t have file sharing.” Or, as Poneman wrote on the room’s chalkboard, “Your parents’ music industry is kaput.” Indeed there are big changes in the air, and, after two-and-a-half hours, this panel admirably scratched the surface of those changes.

The real artistic resonance occurred later that same night, as Low took the stage at the Capitol Garage. The average music consumer probably does not care if a Sony or Warner executive can make his or her next Lexus payment, but the consumer might care that a band like Low is able to eke out a living by providing a packed house with an evening of brilliant and heartbreakingly beautiful music.

The rumors about the breakup are true … sort of. The band currently known as Low Flying Owls will play a final show on November 30 at the Boardwalk with Die Trying (now signed to Island/Def Jam), Las Pesadillas and the Blankets.

After that, Jared Southard and Andy Wagner will embark on an as-yet-untitled project for which they’ll enlist new members and record new material (news of this new material will be available at www.lowflyingowls.com). The band’s manager and sometimes SN&R contributor, Eddie Jorgensen, said Low Flying Owls are "not broken up. They’ve just changed the ol’ name and readjusted some members." The band’s label, The Americans Are Coming, plans to release a full-length album of new LFO material sometime in 2003. The Americans Are Coming also will release Frank Jordan’s EP, Broken Hands, on December 31.