David Lowery Leading Class Action Suit Against Spotify

David Lowery, frontman for alternative groups Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, has filed a class action lawsuit seeking at least $150 million in damages against Spotify, alleging it knowingly, willingly, and unlawfully reproduces and distributes copyrighted compositions without obtaining mechanical licenses.

The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 28 in California federal court; and he is retaining the law firm of Michelman & Robinson, LLP.

“We are committed to paying songwriters and publishers every penny,” Jonathan Prince, a spokesman for Spotify, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, especially in the United States, the data necessary to confirm the appropriate rights holders is often missing, wrong or incomplete.”

A former local, Lowery is known for helping to start and continuing to produce records at Sound of Music Studios. He also has a home here and two sons who live here with his ex-wife. Still touring, in recent years he’s become known nationally for being an outspoken proponent of musicians’ rights in the digital age, and has testified before Congress. He also lectures at the University of Georgia in its music business program. Style reached out to Lowery and will update when possible.

Meanwhile, Billboard has more on the story here; and New York Times provides more coverage here.

And if you want to know just who Lowery is in more detail — read this deep-dig profile of him from a year ago by Grayson Haver Currin.

Review: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Latest blockbuster more of a remix than a sequel.

There are two competing forces in the latest “Star Wars” installment: Huge relief that George Lucas didn’t have anything to do with it, and a little disappointment that so much of it is exactly like “Episode IV: A New Hope.” The new “The Force Awakens” is so much like the original film, in fact, it’s more apt to call it a remix than a sequel.

The movie begins under the belly of a what looks like a new-fangled Star Destroyer, where Nazi-esque forces of evil plot their next move. From there it jumps to a desert planet, where a blippering droid carrying top-secret information finds young heroes eager to be our only hope. A few screen-wipes later and they’re off to save the galaxy.

As one character points out late in the film, that massive, spherical, planet-destroying laser-cannon thing, whose shields the Rebel Alliance needs to knock out so they can blow it up before it destroys what’s left of their bases? That’s absolutely, positively nothing like the Death Star. It’s a lot bigger!

I guess it’s not a surprise that Disney and director J.J. Abrams would try to salvage the series this way. “Star Wars” fans have suffered since 1999 under the tyranny of the dark side, epitomized by Jar Jar Binks and the rest of George Lucas’ astoundingly dreadful prequels. So it’s hard to blame the first sequel for trying to right the ship by simply dusting it off. If the Millennium Falcon ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. Just change up the newer characters a little.

They include an orphan with mysterious powers named Rey (Daisy Ridley), an ex-Storm Trooper named Finn (John Boyega) and a hot-shot pilot, Poe (Oscar Isaac). Theirs is also a digitally-enhanced milieu. But this one is meant to look somewhat real and more like the originals than the antiseptically-scrubbed prequels. The X-Wings they fly look held together by spit and duct tape. The snowy forests they fight in seem alien yet alive, like real places.

The only real question is what they’re fighting and who they’re fighting for. It’s a little confusing how these forces have found themselves in the exact same standoff a scant 30 years or so after the Rebel Alliance destroyed the Empire. What happened to the newly victorious Republic? How has the recently refurbished force of evil amassed an entire new Empire so quickly?

The movie does provide a little bit of explanation that “Star Wars” defenders might be able to spin into an intractable argument. I won’t spoil what it is except to say I’m not totally buying it. And more importantly, I’m wondering who will really understand it, not without being forced to enhance it on their own.

I never thought I’d have to argue for a little exposition in a Hollywood blockbuster, but “The Force Awakens” could use it. It brings back a host of familiar faces from the original. Too bad they couldn’t include Obi Wan, who did everyone a favor in “Episode IV” by explaining to Luke what the heck was going on.

The other really off-note comes from one of the main villains, who looks more like a “Lord of the Rings” character – which ends up making sense after a quick scan of the credits. It’s well known that an adventure’s heroes are only as good as their villain. Maybe the first three movies were so special, and we rooted so hard for Luke, Leia and Han, because of Darth Vader. That’s something the series has struggled with since the end of “Return of the Jedi.”

“The Force Awakens” tries its best, with Adam Driver sinister if not scary as Kylo Ren, the series’ new Darth Wannabe. But he’s no Vader, and if there’s one thing more true than the Force itself, it’s that no one ever will be. Not unless some Jedi screenwriting trick succeeds in bringing him back.

Aside from those nagging problems, “The Force Awakens” is satisfying “Star Wars” stuff. The fact that the story arc is entirely predictable isn’t a deal breaker because it’s paced very well and full of likeable characters and impressive set pieces (some more original than others). Advice for even the biggest skeptics: Go see it without fear. “The Force Awakens” will be with you, and it will re-awaken what you love about the franchise. (PG-13) 136 min. 4 STARS

Review: Food Remains the Strength of the Expanded JKogi Seoul Street Eats

Before returning to Richmond, I lived in Los Angeles for more than a decade. One of its greatest glories, in the center of the city, with palm-lined streets and art deco buildings, is Koreatown. The neighborhood, among other things, is a veritable culinary rabbit hole to be explored.

On the subject of rabbit holes and Korean food, one of my favorite dishes, soondubu, is an excellent example of onomatopoeia — it’s the uncurdled, silken tofu soup found in bubbling hot pots served in Korean restaurants around the globe. Funny thing, I’d all but forgotten about the nostril-searing, sputtering and spattering little cauldrons of brick-red broth and pillowy tofu until I recently found myself in Jackson Ward, facedown in a bowl of it ($6) at the newly expanded JKogi Seoul Street Eats.

Other than noting that this version’s spice level is significantly dialed back — which is perfectly suitable for me — my only wish is that it came in more of a cauldronlike traditional hot pot in lieu of the thin, tottering stainless steel mixing bowl that arrives at my table. That and I want twice as much of it.

JKogi feels a little unfinished. And considering the half-done graffiti piece on one wall and the Target screen divider distinguishing the dining area from paint cans, two highchairs and employee bikes, perhaps it is. But it matters not. Music from Phoenix and Vampire Weekend is blasting from the speakers, there are always a few folks eating in, and judging from the number of times the phone rings on each visit, this place is doing a fairly good takeout and delivery business.

The staff is friendly and a little frazzled. It seems like a small family affair — back-of-house, front-of-house, all one house. Unless there’s a pressing need, no one really mans the counter or dining room. Each time the door dings to alert for an incoming customer or the pervasive phone rings, someone runs through the swinging doors and out of the kitchen to answer the call.

You’ll want to try the kimbap ($6-$7.50), tightly wrapped maki-esque sushi rolls stuffed with such things as pork belly, tuna salad, chicken katsu, kimchi, fish cake, sweet radish and the inevitable Spam and egg. Each order comes with a choice of four sauces. I suggest the red pepper hot sauce, which JKogi calls “No Spicy, No Cry,” for the whole lot.

Kimchi pancakes ($5) are exactly what I crave, always: warm, crisp, salty, oily, tart and spicy. And right beneath that thin veneer of crunch, the inside elegantly melts away with pungent smacks of hot cabbage kimchi. I can eat them like a tub of popcorn in a movie theater.

Probably the most universal and approachable Korean dish is bibimbap, an amalgam of meat and various vegetables — pickled and otherwise. JKogi’s version ($8-$9) would satisfy any late-night kegger attendee, but it’s difficult to tell whether you correctly received your order of rib-eye or pork belly with it. But although the bright, pickled white radish, cucumbers and carrots get lost when matched with the vividly spicy and sour spikes of kimchi, I venture to say that the sum is greater than its parts.

The sticky, peppery and oily – perhaps they’re double-fried — fire chicken wings (five for $6.50, 10 for $12) served at JKogi will leave you with a safety-orange clown mouth for at least an hour and a hankering for an ice-cold beer posthaste.

As with any no-frills Korean restaurant, the staff is there to take your order and bring your food, period. There will be no discussion of the vegetables in season or banter about whether the salmon is better than the tuna. If you order takeout, make certain to check the contents of your bag before you walk out the door. On two occasions I receive missing or mistaken orders. The latter is fortuitous — my erroneous order of thukbokki ($6) is an exciting surprise. The gooey, fire-hot rice-and-fish cakes, with spurs of carrots and cabbage, is a new dish for me.

There’s a comfort food of a certain kind to help mend a broken heart, to aid the recovery of a night of excess and to keep warm on a cold day. Many identify chicken noodle soup as the hero for these occasions. Me? I’ll have to get a double order, but I’ll be elbow deep in that soodubu, thank you very much. S

JKogi Seoul Street Eats

Sundays-Thursdays 11 a.m.-midnight; Fridays-Saturdays: 11 a.m.-3 a.m.

327 N. Second St.



Event Pick: Andrew Alli and the Mainline at Savory Grain

Dec 4 Andrew Alli plays the blues. The Richmond singer and harmonica player has the spirit of Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter flowing through his veins. Like those legends of the instrument and form, Alli’s loose, soulful take on the blues is based on feel. He’s able to make the listener stand in his shoes. A dedicated and engaging player and performer, the Richmond native’s take on classics and his own compositions are what playing the blues is all about. On Friday, Dec 4, Alli and his backing band the Mainline bring eyesight to the blind at the Savory Grain. The music begins at 8 p.m. Free. thesavorygrain.com.